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TOPIC: Downsides of Being in the Present

Downsides of Being in the Present 10 Jun 2016 16:37 #103584

Hi All,

I've been discovering that, at extreme doses, there are downsides to being in the present moment, and I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on this.

Specifically, I've been following the breath, on and off cushion, as well as using investigation to deflate story lines as they arise. I've developed joy linked only to the present moment.

My complaint is that there are some healthy personality traits that are linked to a sense of identity and/or past-future comparison. These are atrophying. Yet, at the same time, my ability to act in the world has increased many times. I guess sometimes I just feel like a joyful, mindful robot, or something.

I tried to keep the OP short, but I could expand if desired. Has anyone experienced these effects, or other downsides to constant mindfulness? Does anyone have any thoughts on the concepts or philosophy behind all of this? Or just any suggestions for my practice?

Thanks,
Noah
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Downsides of Being in the Present 10 Jun 2016 17:02 #103585

I've found that being in the present takes me away from the mindset of the people around me. For example, my 4.5 year old son can change his mindset and 'tune' in a second. It's easy for me to flip with his flips, flop with his flops. However, my wife is relatively untrained. She can have an idea in her head, say the goal of how to spend the next hour or two, which is the subject of a group negotiation. We're all processing and participating in the negotiations at different speeds. This can be stressful. This stress is not strictly driven by relatively differing meditation practices, I started noticing this effect when hanging around with groups of people that have differing levels of improvisational acting experience. The issue has intensified since I started vipassana.

Another note: I feel my awareness of sexual signals and impulses has grown, and my attachment to marriage vows has weakened. I see this as related to freedom from the rights and rituals fetter. I have not strayed from my marriage vows, but I can feel new hazards in front of me in that respect.

Thanks for bringing this up Noah!

Matt
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Downsides of Being in the Present 10 Jun 2016 18:27 #103588

Thanks Matt. I asked my teacher about feeling isolated from other people even while talking to them, and he said the solution was to be totally devoted to listening and tuning in. This helped.

Interesting to hear about the libido. Big issue for me. Cutting off the thoughts and emotions about it, while accepting the unavoidable energy helps.

In general, I just feel this dissonance between the need to 'control' things, and the need to let go, and enjoy things. May all these knots come untied.
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 03:39 #103591

There's a general misunderstanding (IMHO) of what 'being in the present' is, which may be related to this discussion, and which is the way the phrase usually gets used in mainstream mindfulness and meditation circles.

There's no way we can not be in the present. We have no choice. Everything happens in the present (including thoughts of past and future) and we are always there. The thing is to know that.

If we mean something else, like 'not getting caught up in hamster-wheel thoughts of past and future,' or 'being awake to the joys of our everyday environment instead of checking facebook' or whatever, those are goals that may or may not be useful, but different things and best defined clearly as such... (Some people also sometimes mean purposefully inhabiting a kind of dissociative 'witness' state which is also something that can either be useful or bypassing, but is also not well defined as 'being in the present').

YMMV :)
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 04:42 #103592

every3rdthought:
There's a general misunderstanding (IMHO) of what 'being in the present' is, which may be related to this discussion, and which is the way the phrase usually gets used in mainstream mindfulness and meditation circles.

There's no way we can not be in the present. We have no choice. Everything happens in the present (including thoughts of past and future) and we are always there. The thing is to know that.

I agree with all of that.

But is it useful, when the rubber hits the road?
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 05:04 #103593

Yes :)
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 06:15 #103594

every3rdthought wrote:
Yes :)

Can you tell me how?

For me, nondual understandings were useful as a stance while I was doing vipassana. Vipassana rewired my brain-body to suffer less. But the understandings in the mind have since faded. I'd like to know how it has worked for others, especially if it differs from my experience.
Last Edit: 11 Jun 2016 06:15 by Noah.
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 07:41 #103595

Yes, that was a bit gnomic :) which is the problem with talking about the nondual. But at the same time it's very simple (as all the teachers say).

So what I would say is, instead of trying not to think about past and future, just notice those thoughts as they're happening. They're not a problem, even if they're unmindful spinning narratives. Or, don't even notice them, they'll happen anyway. What is it that takes zero effort (including applying effort itself)? Steep in the paradox.

If it's useful, pay attention to the fact that thoughts of past and future are happening right now, that they are the content of now, that the concept 'now' is actually meaningless because there's no point of comparison.

If something aversive arises, actively don't try to disembed from it using any kind of technique, especially vipassana. See what happens. Get excited about the adventure of the aversive (this is something that's happened to me quite recently). It's showing you something really valuable.

Notice how the mind splits up 'this is being in the present' with 'this isn't' and assigns value to them (however that actual value is assigned). Doing that is just tiresome, let it go. Or don't, if you can't. As a yoga teacher once said to me, you cannot choose to surrender, that's the point.

Notice that, for everything that seems like your agency (for example, the choice to apply certain techniques at certain times, or cultivate certain ways of being in the world, based on some kind of analysis i.e. story of what works and what doesn't, of what you want and what you don't out of your practice), the point where you actually make the initial causal decision to apply that agency can't be found, everything just happens and moves through moment by moment. And 'moment by moment' is an inaccurate description because it chops things up which actually aren't effable.

I like Pema Chodron's phrase 'the wisdom of no escape.'

And if you do apply a technique, which is often really wise too in certain situations (e.g. for myself I am so caught up in working with the Litany of Humility and have been for a while, and it's amazing as a response to things I would like to change about myself), just try to notice all of this at the same time as applying it, because the moment in which the technique is being applied is just as present and agencyless as any other.
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 10:29 #103597

"Ultimate view" is tricky, because it seems like the king daddy of all remedies, views, stances, applications, and practices.

That's sorta true; but it is only part of the truth. The ultimate view is the meta-truth, that includes all parts of the paradoxes, contradictions, oppositions. It includes both the unmoving center and the ceaseless kaleidoscope of changes appearing-- and our restless constantly shifting focus, eternal moment after eternal moment.

We are much more finely-tuned, intelligent, responsive instruments than we commonly believe. So if what you've thought was "being in the present" is feeling rigid, or "off" in some way, you can allow yourself to be instructed by that response and to take in more of the total situation. You can allow changes and further discovery.

It's endless-- isn't that great?!
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 12:36 #103598

Why doesn't being in the present moment include everything that's happening in the present moment? That would include thoughts of any kind, of the past, planning thoughts about the future, and so on. It's all happening now and you can pay attention to those. In other words, I second and third the comments of Rowan and Kate.
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 12:46 #103599

every3rdthought:
Notice that, for everything that seems like your agency (for example, the choice to apply certain techniques at certain times, or cultivate certain ways of being in the world, based on some kind of analysis i.e. story of what works and what doesn't, of what you want and what you don't out of your practice), the point where you actually make the initial causal decision to apply that agency can't be found, everything just happens and moves through moment by moment. And 'moment by moment' is an inaccurate description because it chops things up which actually aren't effable.

Thanks Rowan. This makes more sense to me. Although this isn't 'up my practice alley' right now, I will keep it in the back of my mind, and perhaps let it slip in, with a smile, during the day.
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 13:02 #103600

Thanks Kate & Chris.

It seems like this "Ultimate View" (Kate's quote), is simply not as significant for me as it is for other people. To quote Dhammarato, I think we're ignoring the elephant in the room. Meaning, if there is still plenty of tension, having a nondual relationship with it is not enough. No system of contemplation ever recommends only this.

I accept this contrast in approaches to meditation, and will consider more of the 'direct pointing' type of approach to my practice.
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 14:25 #103601

Middle path, middle path, wherefore art thou? :)
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 19:40 #103602

Noah wrote:

My complaint is that there are some healthy personality traits that are linked to a sense of identity and/or past-future comparison. These are atrophying. Yet, at the same time, my ability to act in the world has increased many times. I guess sometimes I just feel like a joyful, mindful robot, or something.

I tried to keep the OP short, but I could expand if desired. Has anyone experienced these effects, or other downsides to constant mindfulness? Does anyone have any thoughts on the concepts or philosophy behind all of this? Or just any suggestions for my practice?

Hi Noah,

I've hit a range of odd effects that I often interpreted as downsides along the way. Hearing or reading description of others who'd had similar experiences helped. (both that someone else had experienced it and that they were able to find words for things I often couldn't really express). That alone helped me come to peace with some of the changes.

Another bit advice I got (from Mukti) was to really notice to what I was telling myself about what had happened or what had changed and see how I was creating stories and future scenarios around it. The actual odd thing or change was always much more simple and benign than where my mind was trying to take it and me.
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Downsides of Being in the Present 11 Jun 2016 19:40 #103603

shargrol wrote:
Middle path, middle path, wherefore art thou? :)

Touché.
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